9.30 am. Under the English Channel, over in a flash. I estimated then that around 9.30 am we would be under the Channel. And so it happened – one minute we were in England, the next minute it’s all dark around me – and then it’s bright again and my phone informs me I am now ‘roaming’ in France.
10.30 am/11.30 am. We are in Paris. Only to find out it’s an hour ahead of London and it’s 11.30 am here.
There are gypsies everywhere. One lady comes up to me, wearing a scarf. “Speak English?” She asks me. I nod yes. Bad mistake. She thrusts a paper in my hand, with a pity letter claiming she is a Bosnian refugee. I wave her away. We see a gang of them harassing some other passenger, who then screams Police before they run away.
My wife keeps a firm hand on the luggage.
The line for information is dreadfully long. We stood in line for more than 30 minutes before we got to the counter. I know my route, but we have to buy a transport pass for the three nights we are in Paris. I also want to verify my route and information. All the time I notice this Algerian guy trying to sell metro tickets in black. I wonder who printed a bunch for him.
The guy at the counter says “very little” when I ask “parle anglais” (Speak English?). Why are you at the Tourist Info booth then if you don’t know English? Then he proceeds to instruct me very clearly in what was very good English.
A lady in burkha begs in a corner. All these shady characters appear Muslim. Or Arab. London appears to be so safe now. We saw a cop or official at every entrance at every tube station. Here it’s mayhem. London felt like home. Paris is already a culture shock.
1 pm. We finally reach our hotel.
A typical Paris street, the stuff of poems, with small white buildings lining up neat streets, lined with trees, and balconies with flowers hanging.
Too tired. Saw a black dude jump the turnstile and enter the metro without paying. Paris is dirty. The traffic is crazy. “Just like Bangladesh,” remarks the wife, and I have to agree.
Paris streets are small, and cars are parked very dangerously close to each other.
It seems if you want to cross the road and there are no lights, just step onto the road. The cars will then stop (hopefully). Otherwise they continue on.
4 pm. Lunch is McDonalds. Filet-o-fish. Can’t find a halal place nearby. Everything else is so pricey. Decide it’s not a bad time to visit the Eiffel tower. Our hotel is right next to it – in fact we can see it from our window.
View of Eiffel Tower from our hotel street
6 pm. Done the Eiffel tower.
At the Palais de Chaillot, which magnificently crowns the Chaillot hill in Paris, overlooking the Eiffel Tower across the Seine river.
It is truly amazing.
Walking past the majestic fountains in the beautiful gardens of Palais de Chaillot, on our way to the Eiffel tower.
It’s also huge – doesn’t seem like it’s so huge when you think about it, but it is.
The lift right up to the very top is one of the scariest I have been on. Everything is open to view and the ride is so SLOW! The CN tower takes you up in a flash, here you have time to absorb the fact that nothing stands between you and a 400m drop to the bottom.
Yup, looking up the Eiffel tower feels like you are looking up a girl’s skirt. No way around that feeling. Wife somehow agrees while still blaming ME for being dirty minded.
7 pm. Go for a walk. Damn I am tired. Travelling and sightseeing on same day is tiring. I wonder how I will stick to my schedule. Decide to go back to hotel and rest and wake up early the next day. Discover French taught in Canadian schools will only take you so far in France (especially if you cheated).
8.30 am. Happy Canada Day, but we are in Paris, France. First up is Louvre, the museum. Neither the wife nor I are big art fans – we are just heading there for Mona Lisa, and for seeing the pieces involved in the Da Vinci Code. Breakfast is some cereal bars and water as we are running late.
10 am. Wow, there is a line to buy the tickets to stand in the line to enter the museum to stand in a line to view the Mona Lisa.
The Winged Victory
Even the ceiling of the Louvre was a work of art.
Madonna of the Rocks. For fans of Da Vinci Code, this is what "So dark the con of Man" resolved to - underneath this painting there was the key.
10.30 am. Mona Lisa! Wow. Too many people, a huge glass window in front, and a big barrier separating every one. Still, desi instincts taking over meant pushing people out of the way for a good picture and getting close to the master piece. I was setting myself up for disappointment but somehow I wasn’t. We would later go back and see it several times.
11 am. Done the Louvre. Nothing much to see beyond our Da Vinci Code list – it got boring after sometime. Same statue, same naked painting, different room, different artist. Magnificent ceilings though! Snap a few pictures of more nude paintings when the wife is somewhere else. For art!
12 pm. Mandatory pictures with the Louvre pyramids later, we are on our way to the Notre Dame. Man it’s hot in Paris too! 37 degrees this time. Am I in Dubai?
12.30 pm. Seems the only answer to “parle anglais” is “very little”. And they lie every time. To quote Abu Sinan, "France would be nice place if not for the French".
1 pm. The Notre Dame’s a beautiful church.
I can’t understand how one can pray inside though – with thousands of tourists streaming in all around you, walking around, snapping pictures. Somehow, the sanctity of the place of prayer feels – violated. There’s lot of noise too, with people snapping pictures, yelling at friends or family to move right or left or to say ‘cheese’, and flashes.
2 pm. Paris streets are beautiful. The short buildings and flowers on balconies makes for a nice touch. And there’s trees everywhere, and the streets seem so well planned.
Lunch is a tuna sub. Still no sign of halal food. We see plenty of Muslims all around though. Most appear shady, some are allied to these gypsies and begging on streets, other appear on steps of tourist places selling everything from fake brand bags to Eiffel tower souvenirs. No wonder the French are mad at Muslims. These ‘Arabs’ are spoiling the image of this city.
Cheap souvenirs though. We buy some Eiffel towers that we bargained for 4 euros each that sell officially for 15 euros.
5 pm. Man, the Concorde and Luxor plaza is being renovated! That sucks.
Plywood and barriers everywhere. Why do they have to do this when we are there? Can’t take good pictures. The fountain’s full of sculptures of naked women.
7 pm. If you want Halal food follow the rich Arabs when they shop. We go to Champ de Elysees and sure enough, there’s a shawarma shop AND a shisha bar AND a halal Indian restaurant. We take a shawarma as a snack. The Indian food will be dinner.
10 pm. Somehow have spent a whole three hours on this street.
Walking to the Arc de Triomphe
People watching, walking to the Arc de Triomphe, climbing it, watching the Eiffel tower light show at sunset. Hard to believe Maghreb is at 10 pm and Fajr is at 2!
Underneath the Arc
Climbing the Arc
A View of the Eiffel Tower from the Arc - it puts on a light show at 10!
A view of the streets leading to the Arc (this is the Champs de Elysees).
The street is quite busy at night.
11 pm. Have dinner at La Rose du Kashmir. Most expensive biryani ever. 25 euros a plate! God bless Toronto and our Gerrard street. Truly, we have halal everything, and they deliver too!
8.30 am. Our last day in Paris. We wake up early and decide to skip the Chateau de Versailles. Neither of us were that keen on palaces or ornate walls. We decide to take it easy and head to Montmartre instead. Breakfast is Egg McMuffin. Mmmm, I am loving it.
The small street leading to the Sacre Coeur.
10:40 am. At the base of Sacre Coeur.
That is one beautiful church.
From far off it looks like Taj Mahal. It really looks more like a temple than a church. There’s many people (immigrants from Africa) selling their wares at the bottom of the hill.
11.00 am. We take the Funiculaire to the top of hill. Not only can one see Montmartre from here, you can see pretty much all of Paris. It’s a different view to the Eiffel Tower and from the Arc De Triomphe.
11.30 am. The church is as beautiful inside as it was from outside. Photography was not allowed inside the church and we noticed the difference from Notre Dame immediately. There was silence, and tourists just milled about, observing, and then leaving.
Spent some time walking around Montmartre and observing all the artists at work here. It’s still Paris, but a different flair to it.
12.07 pm. Moulin Rouge!
Made famous by the movie, the night club gets its name from a red mill at the club, which translated into French means Moulin Rouge. At night this is one busy area. It’s mostly cabaret and somewhat adult themed (which to the French means PG-13). Even if I could convince the wife to come I wouldn’t have – the ticket prices for a show were a whopping 130 euros. Per ticket. And those were the cheap ones.
3 pm. After taking the subway and then walking for what seemed like miles but was closer to in fact fifteen minutes of walking, we reach the Paris Statue of Liberty.
I know the French gave the Americans their statue, so I don’t know which one is original, but now I have seen both.
We have pretty much covered our Paris list, so now we are in a relaxed mode. We decide to head back to Champ de Elysees for lunch.
It’s great weather now, and our stop is near the Arc de Triomphe, so we get some great pictures of the Arch in day light. After dinner it’s back to the hotel for some rest.
9.30 pm. Anyone who visits Paris has to see the Eiffel Tower at night.
We walked from our hotel to the top of the Palais de Chaillot, and it was a great vantage point to see the Eiffel Tower lit up, first with shimmering lights and then the multi colored light show they put up.
One can spend a couple of hours here easily (we did!) – it’s very romantic and they have music, dance and food.